Road deaths are up, but don’t worry! Cars are safer than ever before. All that and more in The Morning Shift for February 24, 2022.
People are starting to figure out that “car safety” means a lot more than building more and more cars that do more and more to protect the people inside of them. Why else would we have spiking road deaths this past year at the same time as a new report from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (read our profile of their work here) that more cars are safer than ever? From Automotive News:
Sixty-five models received the Top Safety Pick+ award this year, compared with 49 models at this point in 2021. Another 36 models earned the Top Safety Pick designation, compared with 41 a year earlier, according to the institute’s initial list of 2022 model award winners.
“Manufacturers deserve congratulations for the steady improvements they’ve made since we last updated our award requirements, but with U.S. traffic fatalities expected to exceed 40,000 people in 2021, it’s no time for anybody to rest on their laurels,” IIHS President David Harkey said in a statement.
It’s almost as if cars themselves aren’t the only part of the road safety equation! But it’s hard to make an award to give out to car companies for “getting people to take the train more often” or “reducing lanes on busy streets and giving space back to pedestrians and bike riders.”
The biggest real advantage Tesla has over other EVs is, well, if it’s not branding it’s Tesla’s superior and uniform charging network. Mainstream automakers still have a long way to go, but they are making an effort. VW ID.4 owners get three years of free charging with Electrify America, and now Toyota bZ4X driver will get a year free with EVgo, per Automotive News:
Toyota said Thursday that it will partner with charging company EVgo to offer one year of unlimited complimentary charging at all EVgo-owned and -operated public charging stations nationwide for Toyota customers who purchase or lease a new 2023 Toyota bZ4X when it goes on sale this summer.
Toyota unveiled the production version of the bZ4X compact crossover last fall. It is expected to have up to a 250-mile range in the U.S., and it is the first of what is expected to be several electric vehicles in Toyota’s lineup in the near future.
EVgo operates more than 800 DC fast-charging locations and thousands of Level 2 charging stations in more than 68 metro areas across 35 states.
I’ve had better luck with Electrify America chargers than EVgos in my personal experience. Mostly, though, is Toyota serious about the bZ4X name? Is Toyota trying to get people to not buy this car? How do you say it? Busy forks? Bees for cross? Buzz-axe? I’m mystified.
The company claims it will let you stop paying attention during traffic jams, which seems relatively low-risk as far as this genre of slippery-slope driver-assistance tech is concerned. From AN:
Mercedes-Benz hopes to introduce Level 3 autonomous driving in the U.S. this year, CEO Ola Kallenius said, after winning certification in Germany for the technology last year.
Mercedes was the first automaker to receive clearance from Germany’s car watchdog for its Level 3 driving system, which it calls Drive Pilot, last December, based on technical requirements laid out in United Nations regulations.
Drive Pilot can operate at 60 kph (37 mph) or below, on certain German highways — what Kallenius described as heavy-traffic or traffic jam situations.
Drivers can take their hands off the wheel and engage in “certain secondary activities” such as watching movies, sending e-mails or communicating with colleagues, Mercedes says.
Russia may be invading Ukraine right now but let’s not lose track of the important stuff: commodity prices! Aluminum is up, per Bloomberg:
Aluminum rallied to a record in London and nickel surged to the highest in more than a decade, pacing gains in industrial metals markets, as the deepening Ukraine crisis added to supply risks in an industry already facing critical shortages.
The gains will heap fresh inflationary pressure on buyers who use aluminum in everything from cars and cables to drinks cans, and the threat of disruption will be particularly troubling for manufacturers in Europe who buy large volumes of specialist products made from it that come from Russia.
Oil is also up over $100 a barrel, per the Financial Times:
Crude oil burst above $105 a barrel for the first time since 2014 on Thursday while the price of natural gas in Europe jumped more than 30 per cent after Russia attacked Ukraine.
Fears that a war could disrupt global energy supplies sent Brent jumping more than 9 per cent to $105.79 a barrel as futures linked to TTF, Europe’s wholesale gas price, surged 50 per cent to €126 per megawatt hour. The European gas price has jumped from just €16 a year ago.
Russia is a key producer of raw materials, with Europe relying on the nation for about a quarter of its oil and more than a third of its gas. It also the world’s biggest supplier of wheat.
Russia also supplies a great deal of the world’s titanium, so all of you Boeing executives out there should be minding things.
Meanwhile, the New York Times has a nice story about people getting laid to rest inside their precious, precious automobiles:
People continue to be buried with their cars, or at least facsimiles of them. In 1984, Willie Stokes Jr. of Chicago was interred in a coffin styled like a Cadillac Seville with functioning head- and taillights, an event immortalized in song by Stevie Ray Vaughan. Another Cadillac fan was Aurora Schuck, a native of Cuba who was buried in Aurora, Ind., in 1989 with her red 1976 Cadillac Eldorado convertible. With the top down, the coffin was placed over the rear seats. Sixteen gravesites were required to fit the car, one of the largest Cadillacs made.
George Swanson of Pennsylvania had his ashes interred with his 1984 Corvette in 1994. And in 2009, Lonnie Holloway and his 1973 Pontiac Catalina went into the ground together in South Carolina. “It’s something he always wanted to do, but I didn’t like it,” Mr. Holloway’s sister, Sallie Harris, told WIS-TV.
At the very least, cars that are buried in the earth should have their fluids drained to reduce environmental issues. Mr. Swanson’s Corvette had the fluids removed and, cued up in the cassette player, an Engelbert Humperdinck tape.
The Professor was born on this day in 1955, a thoughtful and brainy F1 driver if there ever was one. I didn’t realize he turned down an opportunity to drive a third car for McLaren at the end of the 1979 season, opting to take more time to prepare and start things off in 1980. It takes a lot to drive an F1 car; it takes a special someone to turn down a drive in an F1 car.
As ever, keep an eye on Jalopnik alum Terrell Starr over in Kyiv!